Saturday, July 28, 2018

An Overnight Trip to Sydney

I had an early afternoon specialist doctor's appointment on the north side of Sydney so we decided to spend the night rather than drive home the same day. Its a 4+ hour drive each way from the south coast.
It turned out to be a foodie and quilt shop couple of days.
On the way up we stopped off at our favourite cafe, The Emporium, in Berry for coffee. Berry has been bypassed by a new highway section in the last few months and what a difference that has made. The town is much more relaxed with no trucks rumbling down the main street. Business people have not noticed any drop in clientele which is also good.

We lunched at Bloom in Mosman near the doctor's office. They had a new menu and for once I tried a vegetarian bowl which was excellent.

After the appointment, we drove through what seemed 500 sets of traffic lights to the northern beach suburb of Mona Vale. 
Traffic in Sydney and suburbs is horrendous!  
There is a quilt store there which the co driver had been told about and she was very happy with what she found.
Then it was back to North Sydney and our hotel, The McLaren. 
North Sydney is a business area over the harbour bridge from the Sydney CBD (downtown). It used to be full of grand houses, many of which have been knocked down and replaced by the Warringah Freeway and glass and metal skyscrapers. Luckily a few have been spared, our hotel being one, in street where there were many 'survivors'.

The hotel is a mixture of olde worlde charm and modern convenience. Rates are half that of those across the harbour. The co driver was put onto this place when travelling to Sydney with her quilt group. We got upgraded due to her patronage,
Dinner was at the Sakura which was excellent.
We like Japanese food and this menu had many new things to try.
We have tentative plans to visit Japan in January 2020 for the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival so are looking forward to immersing ourselves more in their food then. 

The next morning we headed back into the business district with throngs of people making their way to work and found a place for breakfast.
The Garage served great food and coffee and obviously catered for the business crowd.
The service was fast and efficient. 
We noticed that people in the city walked twice as fast as us and most had heads down looking at phones or are tuning out the world with headphones. 
Nobody smiles much in contrast to those in our little town. Makes us glad we live where we live
Then it was home, again via Berry where we shopped for wine, books and more quilt stuff.
Hopefully we don't have to go to Sydney again until next year when we head to the airport for our USA trip.
Great to be back!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Book Reviews July 2018

I noticed there have been no book reviews on my blog for over a year.
This doesn’t mean I have stopped reading, just slowed down a little.
But we had a recent week’s Internet outage (thanks a lot, Telstra!) and quite a few hours sitting in airports which ramped up the reading activity considerably.
Here are a few of the recent reads, a few of which had been added to our Kindle list by the co driver.
The Finding Billy Battles trilogy continues with the second installment, The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles.
It's 1894 and Billy, mourning the loss of his wife, has left the USA and is heading for the Far East.
After visiting Hawaii, fending off pirates and meeting a very mysterious German baroness who subsequently becomes part of his life, he gets involved in the beginnings of the French Indochina conflict (that decades later would become the Vietnam War), fights in the Spanish-American War in the Philippines and the resultant Philippine-American War when the USA refused to recognize the nascent First Philippine Republic.
Then in Europe with 'his' baroness, he becomes involved in the German plot to invade the USA.

I like historical fiction novels especially those written about events that I know very little about.
This is one.
Written in a rollicking and at times humorous style this is a 'can't put down' read especially if one suspends reality for a while.
I am really looking forward to Part 3 which has already been published.
Highly recommended!
The Passage of Love by award winning Australian author Alex Miller falls into the autofiction genre ie. a memoir written in the style of a novel.
This is the story of Robert Crofts (Miller) who moves from a northern Queensland cattle station to 1950s Melbourne (my home town in that era) with desire to become a writer. Here he experiences all the pitfalls of an innocent in a big city and ends up marrying a complete mismatch in Lena.
With things not working out for them, their solution seems to be to move.
And they do. Often!

From suburban Melbourne to a sterile Canberra, to London, to pre-gentrified Leichhardt an inner suburb of Sydney and finally to a remote run down farm outside Braidwood (just up the road from where we live.)
Miller has said “The book is about a tormented relationship, magnified by the bonds of marriage, that neither of us understood. Friendship suited us better."
I found this an enjoyable read (despite the 600 pages) about complex relationships which was enhanced by knowing so many of the places where the story took place.
Fire and Fury really needs no introduction.
It was probably the first book about the Trump White House and was the subject of many interviews, TV news show discussions and literary critiques.

All I can say is if only 50% of what is written here is true, then the groundwork for 4 years of chaos has been laid.
How the USA could have elected a lying, incompetent, misogynistic, sexist, racist and six times bankrupt buffoon as President is beyond me.
But sadly for the world it did.
Much of this book is now old news but it is still compulsive reading. Whether or not you want to throw the book at a wall more often than not probably depends your political leanings.
Luckily I had the Kindle edition so the wall was spared.
Hopefully Robert Mueller will be able to stop all this nonsense sooner rather than later.
The Secret Wife is another historical fiction.
This one is about the Russian Revolution and the demise of the Romanovs and the rise of Lenin and communism.
However in this story it wasn't Anastasia who survived the royal family's massacre as is regularly suggested (she didn't), it was another daughter of Czar Nicholas, Tatiana.
She is the secret wife married to cavalry officer Dimitri who manages to extricate her from her fate then loses her.

This is a well written story that melds the fiction and fact seamlessly while at the same time giving a great insight into how and why the Revolution evolved and the horror that the royal family must have gone through while in captivity.
The hero is more than convincing.
The modern day tie in on how this story is uncovered by Dimitri's great grand daughter is a little flaky but doesn't distract too much from the tale.
I liked it.
Reckoning: A Memoir is by Australia's beloved TV and screen actress Magda Szubanski (she was Esme Hoggett in the movie Babe).
Born in the UK to a well off Polish father and poor Scottish mother, the family migrated to Australia where she grew up in outer suburban Melbourne.
The memoir centers on her relationship with her father. But this man who mowed the lawn, joined the local tennis club, wore shorts and long socks, wasn't your regular suburbanite.
He had been an assassin for the Polish resistance against the German occupation during WW11.

She also had to deal with her secret awareness of her sexuality at a very early age at a time when 'coming out' was always fraught with danger on personal relationship as well as career levels.
This is a very honest, open and, at times, moving autobiography even more so for many of us who only knew her as the affable 'clown' who appeared on our TV screens in classic comedies like Kath and Kim or who recently became a very public face of the Yes Campaign during the Same Sex Marriage debate.
One review I read said "a heartbreaking, joyous, traumatic, intimate and revelatory story".
Indeed it is!

Friday, July 13, 2018


It has been very dry in our region for months.
Our creek has not run for a very long time. I have never seen it completely dry in the 30 years we have had the place.
Our dams are also low.
Pasture growth has been minimal over the warmer months and we are already hand feeding our cattle.
With lucerne (alfalfa) at $25 a bale this is an expensive exercise.
So now it's official, the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has revealed that the Shoalhaven is experiencing an ‘intense drought’, the most serious category.

In fact when the DPI released it’s June seasonal update this week, it showed that 99 per cent of New South Wales is experiencing drought, while 15 per cent is in the intense category.
An ‘intense drought’ is declared when ground cover is very low, soil moisture stores are exhausted and rainfall has been minimal over the past 6-12 months.
The official national climate outlook for July to September was issued by the Bureau of Meteorology on 28th June, with the chance of increased drier and warmer than average conditions predicted.
Not a good situation.